Selected regional developments in human rights and democratisation during 2016: Referendums on the rise in Europe: Powerful tool of the populists or a step towards increased citizen participation in EU politics?
MetadataShow full item record
This article provides an overview of different types of national referendums held in 2016 in European Union member states ranging from The Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Hungary and Italy, and discusses key political and legal issues arising from these referendums. It also examines the increased occurrence of referendums in the context of wider trends in Europe, such as the rise of populist parties and scepticism towards the EU. It finds that referendums were used as a protest vote, and are becoming more and more exploited as tools by Eurosceptic parties. The article further discusses the advantages and disadvantages of referendums in relation to concerns such as the democratic deficit in the EU and the increased anxiety of member states and their citizens over losing sovereignty to Brussels. There is a risk that referendums on EU-related matters in some cases can do more harm than good for democracy in Europe. Therefore, it is important to also strengthen and promote representative democracy. Key words: European Union; democracy; referendums; populism; Dutch Ukraine-EU Association Agreement referendum; Brexit; Hungarian referendum; Italian constitutional referendum